Voiceover Questions and Answers

Click the section titles to reveal the answers to some Frequently Asked Voice Over and Narration Questions – and some Barely Ever Asked Questions, too – just for good measure…

Voiceover Artists are often actors. In fact, in the USA they’re often called “Voice Actors”. But let’s be straightforward and put the “luvvie” stuff to one side for a moment. Booking a Voice Artist is a business transaction, and like any other business transaction you need to make sure you’re confident of getting the right product, on time, and within your budget.

The biggest factor in choosing your voice will, of course, be the sound of the voice itself. Some voices sound “right” for a project, and some don’t. It’s no reflection on the artist as a person, and most of us are used to that fact. That said, some people’s voices are more flexible than others, so don’t be afraid to ask for an “alternate read” – your “talent” (we love it when you call us that) may surprise you and hit the right mark on the second attempt, just by changing their approach to your text.

Once you’ve found a voice you like, the other factors come into play: can they get the track recorded in the time you need, and at a price you can comfortably afford? See below for my take on pricing.

A Voiceover Artist working at home from their own studio will, more often than not, be able to complete your job in a short timeframe, and their costs will generally be lower than if you were to take the job into a studio, where you’d be paying for facilities and a sound engineer on top. Those per hour costs can mount up, so if you can find a talent whom you trust to work on their own, you’ll be able to reduce your overheads by using a Voiceover Artist who has their own recording facilities – which, I’m pleased to say, I do…

Good question, and I’m glad you asked!

Assuming you like my voice, then you need to make sure that I’m someone you can actually work with. Any voice you choose needs to be owned by someone who plays well with others. Voice Actors, like Producers, are people, after all.

You need someone who can look at a script and instinctively know, with the minimum of direction, how to lift your words off the page. You need someone who’s available by phone or email – and who replies promptly and courteously to your communications. And you need someone who’s competent in the studio…

I’m proud to say I meet these requirements. I have twenty years of professional experience in radio and television on both sides of the glass partition. I’m also keen to point out that this is something I do as my main choice of career (having dabbled in one or two others) and that I do it because I love it, not because I’m using it to fill in until something else comes up.

Often, really good Voiceover Artists make a really good job of your script because of something hard-wired inside them. I can’t tell you how I do it, but I can “cold read” a script I’ve never seen before and – nine times out of ten, if it’s reasonably well-written – get the intonation, pacing and delivery spot-on. This saves you time and money compared to someone less experienced who needs more “takes” to get it right, and I often surprise my clients by needing less time than they’d imagined. Again, this keeps your costs down.

I can take direction when it’s offered, or give you options if direction isn’t something you’re comfortable with. I have plenty of script-writing experience, so I can even make suggestions to help you improve your copy, if script-writing isn’t something you’re used to – and if that’s what you want (if it isn’t, then I’m equally happy to keep quiet…)

When you book me, you get someone who knows the media business, appreciates its pressures, and remains calm and composed under pressure. You get the benefit of experience, and you know you’ll get a job well done – whether that’s with me working remotely to your brief, or in your precious time in the studio with an engineer.

If you’d like some reassurance from my previous clients, take a look at the Testimonials page. I can back these up with references if you require.

I’m not a thespian, no, if that’s what you mean. I have a lot of respect for those of my peers who are, and I’m not afraid to say that sometimes they’ll be a better bet for a particular job. Actors can be a great choice if you’re looking for a character voice (my Mickey Mouse impression doesn’t really pass muster, unfortunately) or if you really need that “big name voice” to go with your project – everyone can recognise the voice of James Earl Jones, Joanna Lumley or Patrick Stewart, even if they can’t necessarily think of the name when they hear it. That in itself can be a great asset to a big budget production.

On the other hand, a lot of “resting” actors do voiceover work in their spare time. Some of them are really great at it and some of them aren’t so great. Doing a voiceover in a little box, on your own, without an audience or (often) a director, first time, without rehearsal time, isn’t the same thing as being on stage.

My advice would be to ask yourself whether you really need the skills an actor brings to the part. Do you need lots of emotion and characterisations? A lot of “range” is great for the West End or Broadway, but it might be wasted – or even prove a distraction – for your Flash presentation or promotional video.

Traditionally, you’d book a studio with an engineer, and book a Voiceover Artist to go in and record your script. You might do this via an agency, and you’d either be there for the recording or not, depending on your own requirements and hectic agenda. This could be quite expensive, with the cost of the studio, the engineer and your travel on top of the session fee. But there’s been a quiet revolution in voiceover production over the last decade or so…

Some years ago, the voiceover industry went through a sea change, as studios and talent alike got wise to the idea that – then state-of-the-art – ISDN phone lines could be used to deliver pretty good audio without anyone having to go anywhere at all. With equipment prices falling as fast as petrol prices were rising, Voiceovers largely stopped travelling and built studios at home, voicing to the world as easily as making a phone call.

As the broadband internet took hold and people were able to send larger files over their home ADSL or cable connections, the natural extension of this was the “record-and-forward” Voiceover Artist: people who record at home and then supply the finished track by email or FTP. All-in-all, the falling costs and increasing power of computer hardware, and more significantly the advent of the internet, have turned the possibility of voiceover as a home business into a reality.

The resultant, charming idyll is both a Very Good, and a Very Bad Thing.

Unfortunately, not all home-based Voiceover Artists – or recording setups – are created equal. A quick listen to some demos on any of the many internet voice directories is enough to prove that. The fact that just about anyone with a very modest outlay can now set up their stall as a voice means that a lot of people have done exactly that, when they’d never get considered for work under the old system. The quality threshold has slipped, both for the performance and technical aspects of the job. Not everyone’s studio is properly acoustically treated, for example. And if you’re relying on someone to work on their own, without supervision, how do you know they can edit audio so that you don’t hear the joins?

Wait a minute – is that a phone you can hear ringing in the background on the recording? Next door’s dog barking, perhaps? Voiceover Junior demanding to be fed? Always ask for a sample of work – a “dry voice track” – to make sure that the technical quality of the trackand the artist’s delivery are in line what you’re expecting. You may be surprised…

When you book me, we’ll discuss your requirements, agree pricing and timescales, and talk about how you want the finished read to sound. This can happen by email or by phone. I’ll send you a Voice Services Agreeement, which outlines what we’ve discussed and my terms, and once you’re happy I can start work. If there are any tricky pronunciations or acronyms I need help with then I’ll ask you for advice on these. You’re not going to be there when I record, so it’s important that I have this information upfront to reduce the need to record it again, and to get the finished voice track to you in the shortest possible time.

Once the track is finished I’ll email you to let you know, and will supply it in the format you require (AIFF, MP3, WAV, etc) and at the bitrate you need, if appropriate. Short files can be sent by email, but good quality audio means large file sizes, which email isn’t so good for. For these larger files I can use FTP to place them into a site of your choice, or I can host them in a private Client FTP area on this site until you’ve safely downloaded them. Alternatively, if the term “FTP” brings you out in a cold sweat, we can use a facility like YouSendIt.com, which holds a copy of the file and sends you a link to download it without you having to worry about it.

When you’re happy (and not before) I’ll invoice you, and you pay me the agreed amount. I accept payment by bank transfer (preferred), cheque and even via PayPal.

All of my session fees include a set of retakes at no extra charge. This is fairly standard, though not all voice talents will offer this, so do check. It’s important that you have this safety net, as you’re not going to be there when the script is recorded.

What this means is that if you decide, within a reasonable period which we agree in advance, that the read isn’t right for whatever reason, I redo it – in part or in whole – at no extra cost to yourself.

If the script changes later, or if there are mistakes in the script that weren’t spotted before the recording or within the grace period, then these are chargeable at a portion of the original fee, as detailed in our agreement. This seems to be a reasonable way of doing business, and I promise to play fairly.

Yes! Although an increasing portion of my voiceover work is done at home working on my own, a large chunk of my work is still in studios, where I turn up and do things in the traditional way. I’m happy with either.

I’m based in Kennington, home of The Oval cricket ground, Beefeater Gin, and some – frankly very good – Indian restaurants. It’s “South of the River”, but geographically so close to Central London that I might as well be in Chelsea or Camden. This means I can get to the thriving media village that is Soho in twenty minutes, or anywhere else in Greater London and the South East very easily indeed (one of my regular clients is in Reading, for example).

So, if there’s a studio facility you’d like to use, do let me know. And if you’d like me to suggest one, I can do that too, though my ISDN and VOIP connection facilities (see below) mean I can connect to your chosen studio even if it’s not within easy reach.

Yes I do. Like most voiceover artists, though, I find I need to market myself independently, as agents can’t usually provide all the work that all their clients need in order to feed themselves and buy shiny things. She often manages to access work that I don’t find myself, and vice versa.

You don’t have to book me through the agency though, unless you’ve found me through them. That’s the agreement we have. If you’re happier booking through an agent for whatever reason, then I can put you in touch and let her handle it.

My main microphone is Neumann TLM 103, which is a large diaphragm studio condenser. Pre-Amp and processing is handled by a Focusrite Platinum Voicemaster Pro, and this goes via its onboard Analogue-to-Digital Converter into an M-Audio Delta 66 soundcard on a PC running Pro Tools (or one of a selection of other audio editing programs, depending on the job).

I’m pleased to be able to offer my clients a choice of ways to connect to my studio for live sessions.

Industry-standard ISDN connections are handled by a workhorse CDQ Prima 220, which connects seamlessly to virtually any ISDN codec on the market today. I have two 64Kbps ISDN lines, so can offer full-quality MPEG Layer II audio at 128Kbps (sometimes – though incorrectly – called “Musicam”) as well as G.722 and a couple of other esoteric formats into the bargain.

If you need to direct me while I’m reading, you can dial into my studio and listen in as I record. This can even be done via Skype – with the audio from my microphone routed directly into the program, but better still I am able to offer a full “phone patch” facility, which means that an ordinary telephone from anywhere in the world can be connected to listen to the live session or the playback. Working this way also means that you could have me on the line and another voiceover, elsewhere in the world, connected via ISDN or Source-Connect at the same time and we can all talk to one another while we work. The possibilities are endless!

ISDN has served the industry well, but the costs involved can mount up: there are installation costs, line rental and call charges to pay. Each session at 128Kbps uses two 64Kbps lines, which means twice the price of a normal phone call, for the duration of the session. This can make using ISDN internationally quite costly. For some time, the industry has been looking for ways to use high-speed internet connections to do the same thing.

As we move forward, I am also pleased to offer two new VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) options, either or both of which may eventually replace ISDN. These solutions are called AudioTX Communicator and Source-Connect. Both deliver high quality audio over an internet connection, provided that each party has the appropriate software and a reasonable connection speed.

At my end, I happen to be connected to the fastest broadband ISP in the UK, which means that sending audio out is not a problem for me. Each of these products has its merits – primarily the avoidance of call charges to anywhere in the world – and Source-Connect in particular has some very impressive features, such as remote transport syncing and auto restore/replace of the audio file after the session, to compensate for any data packets lost during live recording. These features in particular make Source Connect suitable for remote dubbing to picture.

I’m pleased to have passed Source Elements’ Certification programme for Source-Connect, allowing clients to connect to my studio confident in the knowledge that everything works.

Please contact me if you’d like to know more about either Source-Connect or AudioTX, or click the links to visit their respective websites.

I think this might be the question that Voiceover Artists get asked more than any other. The perception is that we get paid a lot of money for just talking! After all, who wouldn’t want to make several hundred pounds or dollars a day just by sitting in front of a microphone and reading a script? Who wouldn’t want to do a day’s work in an hour – or sometimes much less? The reality, of course, is that there’s much more to it…

For a start, there’s a skill involved in lifting those words off the page, getting the inflections and emphasis right, “telling” a story rather than “reading” one, and turning what can (sometimes) be a very dry, poorly-written piece of copy about something the talent may know nothing about, into something that’s engaging and listenable. If you don’t believe me, try recording a segment of yourself reading this page, then listen back to it and ask others to critique your delivery, if you dare!

Secondly, there’s a vocal quality that you get with a professional Voiceover Artist that most people who don’t use their voices for a living just don’t have. Most non-professionals simply don’t sound confident when they’re reading a script. Or if they do, they don’t sound believable. Or interested… Out comes the “telephone voice” and the listener just knows that it’s been done on the cheap.

Trust me: this isn’t an image you want to project for your business, and the investment in a quality voice talent will make a big difference to your own clients’ and customers’ perception of your business in the marketplace.

Finally, getting paid a daily rate for doing an hour’s work isn’t really the whole story – it’s just the tip of an iceberg, and below the surface, unseen, there lie the hours of finding the work, self-marketing, running a business (complete with tax returns) and so on that the voice seeker never sees. It’s not that the client should expect to be paying for all this, but the reality is that without it the Voiceover Artist can’t remain in business – and every voice talent who wants to stay in business needs to think of themselves as a business, just like any other small business owner.

What it does mean though is that what can seem like a generous amount of money for a couple of hours’ work, might actually be the only money that the voice artist sees if it’s a slow week.

If you have any other questions that you’d like me to answer, please let me know so I can include them here!

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